The Gender Gap in Leadership Positions at the Nation’s Leading Research Universities

A new report from the EOS Foundation examines the status of women in leadership positions at the nation’s leading research universities. The authors state that “women have outnumbered men on college campuses since the early 1980s, and today earn 58 percent of undergraduate degrees, 62 percent of master’s degrees, and more than half of PhDs. Yet, top leadership at the nation’s elite universities has been — and remains — predominantly male and White.”

The study found that women now lead 30 percent of all R1 research universities in the United States. This is up from 22 percent just two years ago. Between September 2021 and May 2023, half of the newly appointed presidents were women. The Ivy League leads the way with women leading six of the eight universities.

Despite the progress, nearly 40 percent of all R1 universities have never had a woman president. Only 30 percent of board chairs at R1 universities are women. Women make up 39 percent of the provost at these universities.

The authors of the report note that “despite a concerted effort to ensure women and people of color are fairly represented in the final applicant pool for top jobs, the end results are often disparate. When the focus is on end results, managers must go the extra mile to consider structural obstacles that stand in the way of equitable outcomes. If boards and hiring managers focus only on creating diverse finalist pools, they may not be taking the necessary steps to remove selection bias from the final decision.”

The report also calls for governors who appoint chairs and board members for system boards and regents of state universities should strive for balanced representation. This could, in turn, lead to more women being appointed to leadership positions at these universities.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study

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